Commonwealth Journal

News Live

August 7, 2013

Burnside Time Capsule

1950 Detroit newspaper offers final look at town before it was impounded by Lake Cumberland


Somerset —

“There were at least three farms up there. Most of the land on the hill was owned by (the late) Bob Cox,” Brooks related.

Residents on and near Bunker Hill didn’t have city water. Brooks said they got water from Town Spring, a gushing stream that created a creek on the east side of Bunker Hill. 

The creek was swollen by the lake to become part of a body of water that turned Bunker Hill into an island. The setting made the hill attractive and the state built a park, the only island state park in Kentucky.

Before the lake was impounded, Cumberland River was navigable. Point Isabel, later called Burnside, originally was the eastern terminus of a brisk river trade. Steamboats plied up and down the river between Burnside and Nashville.

“Steamboats had about played out before the town was forced to move,” Brooks remembers. He said the railroad and trucks had taken over most of the movement of goods.

“The last riverboat, sometime in the late 30s, got stuck and had to stay up here a while,” Brooks recalls.

Point Isabel on the Cumberland River was settled around 1800 by pioneers from the Carolinas and Virginia. During the Civil War, the Union Army, in 1863, set up a troop rendezvous and supply base at Point Isabel as a prelude to the East Tennessee Campaign of General Burnside. The area became known as Camp Burnside in official dispatches and the name Burnside was retained after the war.

Moving the town was a bitter pill for many Burnside residents, particularly older people. “Some of them just didn’t want to leave their homes,” Brooks said. 

Burnside lost population because of the lake. Between 1,200 and 1,500 lived in the town at the time it was moved, according to Brooks. Some of the residents apparently didn’t get enough money to rebuild in the new town and were forced to find housing somewhere else, including Somerset. Burnside’s current population is 611, according to 2010 census.

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